It's easy to forget that Todd Frazier, in the eyes of Baseball America, was a Top 50 overall prospect and number one in the Reds' system prior to the 2010 season. Having started his professional career at short stop, he could be imagined almost anywhere on the field. With 16 games at AAA under his belt, having hit at every level, Todd's Time was close at hand.
Yet since the start of the 2010 season, Frazier has made 938 plate appearances at AAA to just 157 in the majors. His numbers at the plate, while trending up, didn't match the brilliance he'd shown at lower levels.
He turned 26. He's made appearances at 5 different positions between Louisville and CIncinnati. Frazier's versatility became a form of indecision on the part of the organization - and apparent doubt about whether his skillset fitting into one of their positions of need. A lot of it was having Rolen and Phillips under contract, but part of it may also have been that he didn't seem like he'd hit well enough to play the outfield.
Frazier's fits and starts in Louisville obscure the fact that he's a player we were pretty excited about a little over two years a go. What he's shown since is steady and incremental improvement. The bat has come along: from a sub-.800 OPS in 2010 as a Bat to an .879 OPS this season in the majors. He's gone from a major positional question mark to what appears to be a passable infielder in the majors - someone who can even be used in the middle infield in a pinch.
With Juan Francisco a Brave and Rolen on the DL, Frazier has his chance - deferred, but very real.
Defensively, he's significantly better in left field than he is at third base. That's what watching him in the minors - and the Reds' recent handling of him - seems to suggest and the early (and nearly worthless) defensive metrics support.
By my estimation, he's significantly worse than Rolen at third, but far from laughable. He doesn't need to hit very well to even the score. A crude WAR calculation, adjusting for defense, gave me a wOBA below .300 to match what Rolen had put out so far this season. Frazier is currently cranking out .374.
That's going to melt away as a regular starter. Running Frazier's numbers through the MLE calculator says his AAA career equates to a .225/.280/.337 season. The formula doesn't want human baseball fans to be happy and does not know anything about Frazier's age or pedigree, so we should probably disregard. Even pretending that Frazier has no special talent, there will be a little bump in production from 3B with that line.
In-season Zips has Frazier around a .325 wOBA. That sounds about right to me, even a little low. That would give him a statline like: .245/.315/.430. Maybe a half-win improvement? Observers that have followed Frazier in Louisville would probably be higher on him than that. An improvement of a win or more is not outrageous - and it's an advantage that might just put a few more pitches over the plate further up the order.
In the Toddfather, Reds are lucky to be able to keep it "in the family" - plugging in Frazier with their regular starter out for an indefinite amount of time. He's not going to keep hitting like he has so far, but he has the talent to be a solid major league regular. He might even fly under the radar a little while longer.
So kiss the Little League World Series ring.
Beyond his recent accolades as a prospect, Frazier also had a "Talkin' Baseball" song adapted with his name featured prominently before he even made the major leagues.